SUDBURY — For children impacted by cancer, life becomes unpredictable.
"So much of childhood cancer and survivorship is inconsistent," said Erin Fletcher Stern, CEO and director of Camp Casco. "It's hard to expect what your next day will look like."
Camp Casco is a weeklong summer camp for children with cancer where summer fun overshadows their diagnoses. Kids focus on just being kids, whether that means water balloon fights or whipping a counselor in the face with a pie, said Stern.
For this unique population, the isolation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded an already high-stress and lonely experience, said Stern, making Camp Casco especially important.
"We believe every child should get to experience summer camp," she said. "It builds resilience, independence, self-esteem and new skills. It's just a safe place for a lot of our kids."
This year, when camp opens for the first time since the pandemic began, Camp Casco can serve 10 additional children — it typically accommodates 42. The new slots are possible after the camp won a competitive four-year grant.
Camp Casco will receive $100,000 over four years through Cummings Foundation's $25 Million Grant Program. Selected from among 580 applicants, the camp is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive funding.
The money will support Camp Casco's Overnight Camp for childhood cancer patients and survivors from ages 7-17. The 10 additional spaces will be fully funded for the next four years.
Cummings Foundations' $25 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties. The Cummings Foundation, a private entity based in Woburn, aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial properties, according to a press release about the grant program.
Its buildings are managed by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. The Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusive benefits the Foundation.
"We are so fortunate in Greater Boston to have such effective nonprofits, plus a wealth of talented dedicated professionals and volunteers to run them," said Cummings Foundation Executive Director Joyce Vyriotes, in a statement. "We are indebted to them for the work they do each day to provide for basic needs, break down barriers to education and health resources, and work toward a more equitable society."
The sustained support will help ensure kids with cancer have a safe space where they can return and build a strong community.
"We don't want this to just be a one-time thing," said Stern. "We want to make this a space where they know, 'Every year I am going to come back to Camp Casco until I'm 18 and then I'm going to come back as a counselor.'"
This article originally appeared on MetroWest Daily News: Sudbury Camp Casco wins grant to support summer camp for kids with cancer